In Butler County, Ohio, near Cincinnati, 24 people have died of cocaine ingestion, more than in any previous year, and more than in five surrounding Greater Cincinnati counties combined, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The county’s total of cocaine deaths in the 1990s was 25.
Users between 35 and 50 years old have died more frequently than younger ones, largely because of health problems that come with age. The recent death of Nathaniel Jones during a struggle with Cincinnati police was complicated by the 41-year-old man’s obesity, enlarged heart and use of drugs like cocaine, a coroner said. The glut of cocaine on Ohio streets is cheaper – $30 to $50 for a one-gram dose – and purer than even one year ago, authorities say.
Tracking cocaine deaths is difficult because many users abused other drugs that may have contributed to their deaths and because agencies have different ways of categorizing drug-related deaths. The Ohio Department of Health is trying to create a database that would show how many deaths are attributed to specific drugs.
Even so, Butler County’s cocaine death rate stands out as unusually high, considering its 334,000 population. County coroner Richard Burkhardt is frustrated that efforts to educate people about the dangers of cocaine and other drugs aren’t working. “(People) continue to abuse drugs as if they are no more harmful than a roller-coaster ride at Americana,” Burkhardt said in his 2002 annual report, lamenting last year’s 19 cocaine deaths. “Until people come to realize that drugs are dangerous and that no thrill can compensate for the early loss of life, we will continue to experience tragedy after tragedy.”
Among the 24 who succumbed to cocaine in Butler this year, 23 were males; their ages spanned 22 to 53 – and half were at least 35. “These aren’t teenagers,” Burkhardt said. “But they’re continuing to use a drug they may have used in their 20s – and the older people’s bodies can’t take it.”